My wife and I recently had a yard sale. After getting married we had a lot of extra 'stuff' that we didn't need. Between our two households we had duplicates of many items. And when merging our houses we had more stuff than we had room for. So we've been gradually working on getting rid of stuff.
My wife did almost all the work preparing. She had to sort items and put prices on them. I don't know exactly how much time she put into preparation but I'm going to guess it was around 25 hours. Then the two of us spent most of the day on Saturday and Sunday holding the sale.
Overall we made close to $500 for the weekend. I think that is a pretty good return for the effort.
What sold well:
Tools - we sold a variety of tools for $1 each and they sold very well.
Bags - $1-5 for bags sold pretty well
Books - good books sold well at 50¢ each
Assorted Houseshold items
Electronic items - we sold 2-3 stereos and radios, a karaoke machine and a relatively new DVD player. We priced them for around 10-33% of new prices
Computers and parts that were in good condition and recent. I sold two computers that were around 2 years old for about 1/3 of the cost of new.
Videos - videos sold ok at 50¢
What sold poorly:
Clothing - people barely even looked at the clothing and we only sold a couple items.
Poor quality items - Nobody wanted stuff that was broken or missing parts
I think the keys for success at a yardsale are: 1) Sell items at a low/reasonable price. Most of the stuff we sold was at a fraction of new prices. People go to yard / garage/ estate sales looking for bargains. 2) Sell items that were useful and someone would reasonably want to buy. The 'useful' stuff sold well.
Does it always make sense to hold a yard sale? Not always. I would only hold a yard sale if you have enough stuff to make it worth the effort. If you only have a few high ticket items then sell them on ebay or Craigslist. If you have a bunch of small low cost/quality items then consider donating them to charity for a tax deduction.
Here's a couple questions to ask yourself before holding a yard sale:
1) If I sell all this stuff how much will I make? If the amount isn't worth spending a Saturday waiting around your yards talking to strangers then its not worth holding a yard sale.
2) Could you make more by donating it all to charity? If you itemize then you can deduct the 'fair market value' of household goods you donate to charity. If your marginal tax rate is high enough then its going to be better for you financially to donate items to charity instead of selling them. For example consider a pair of jeans: If you bought the jeans for $25 then you could reasonably donate them and deduct $5 value for them. If your marginal tax rate is 40% then thats a $2 net gain in tax avoidance. If you sold them at a yard sale for anything less than $2 you'd be coming out behind.
3) Could you just sell it on eBay or Craiglist? If you have a few high ticket / high demand items then it might be easier just to sell them on eBay or Craigslist or some other venue. For certain items you can find a better market online. If I had a used Nintendo Wii game or two that I wanted to sell then I'd certainly go to eBay or Craiglist.
For us we had a LOT of stuff and much of it was useful and sellable. We also had a wide mixture of higher ticket and misc. items. So for us it made sense.
Photo source daquellamanera on Flickr